It's been a nice November here in southwest Wisconsin, but it's been full of surprises. Some days were sunny and above 50 degrees, but there were also nights in the single digits. From November first to the end of the month we had 5 inches of snow, plus a few inches of rain. The thermometer goes up and down every few days and the wind can't make up its mind where to blow from. It always reminds me of March, when you don't know what the next wind may bring.
A little red Screech owl has been using the nestbox in the locust tree near the house. He sleeps in it during the day, and hunts at night. I've seen him peeking out of the hole every day at sunset for the past three weeks. A few nights ago, the wind howled out of the northwest with gusts of 50 mph. I wondered how the little owl would make out on such a nasty night. I didn't have to worry though, as he was back up in the nesting box the next evening.
Whenever the temperature drops sharply, I've been seeing and hearing large flocks of swans flying over to the east. The Tundra swans have spent the summer on the Northern Canadian tundra. During their fall migration, many thousands of swans will gather to rest on the Mississippi River. Some of them leave when it gets cold enough to freeze open water. They will spend the winter in the Carolinas--something I've always wanted to do!
The landscape here has taken on that quiet winter look. These tree-covered mountains are totally bare, no leaves at all, except for a few on the scrub red oaks. I'm thinking there's not a trace of summer anywhere, but then a pair of blue birds passes over, whistling as they fly along. I have been wondering if I would see any late bluebirds. In years past I've seen them passing through as late as the tenth of December. Like their cousins the robins, these cheery little thrushes are very hardy.
I was pleasantly surprised to see two rusty Fox sparrows at the bird feeder this morning. They were slightly larger than the tree sparrows and juncos, and with their bold, rusty striped breast, back and tail they really stand out. It's nice to see them, though I know they will probably be gone in a week or two, once it gets cold enough to freeze the ground.
There seems to be a surplus of Blue jays at my place this winter. It's hard to get a good count because they keep coming and going so fast. There are bird feeders on both sides of the house, so I tried to run from one window to the next to count, but had to give up. There seem to be about 20 to 25. I go through a lot of sunflower seeds, but that's ok, that splash of bright blue is priceless.
The jays are such fun to watch. Their bold and aggressive antics add some diversity to match their colorful presence. Still, their voices may be their most prominent feature. What would winter be like here, without the many different calls of the Blue jays? They are the ones whose loud alarm calls warn the other birds of danger. I'm grateful to have them here, in any quantity.
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Don't forget to remind yourself, there's something to be thankful for every day!
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